Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…
Talk about an eventful season for Andrew Ladd. He went from captain of the Winnipeg Jets to a member of the Chicago Blackhawks via the trade market as the defending champs at the time loaded up for another possible run at the Stanley Cup.
It didn’t quite work out that way. The Blackhawks were eliminated in the first round and Ladd is now playing the waiting game as a pending unrestricted free agent.
Based on his recent comments to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, it sounds like Ladd won’t be returning to Chicago due to cap issues.
“When we spoke after the season, they said it would be tough,” Ladd told Friedman. “The likelihood is they don’t have the room to make it work.”
The Blackhawks have nine forwards already under contract for next season — that includes Bryan Bickell for one more year at $4 million — and they have two pending restricted free agents in Andrew Shaw and Richard Panik.
(In April, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wasn’t sure if he’d be able to re-sign Shaw — again due to the cap and what it might be for next season.)
Ladd’s five-year contract with a cap hit of $4.4 million is set to expire. At the age of 30, he’s coming off a productive 25-goal, 46-point season combined between the Jets and Blackhawks, and that could signify a raise on the open market. According to a report from the Winnipeg Free Press in December, Ladd was said to be asking for a six-year deal worth at least $41 million.
He had only one goal and two points in seven playoff games with Chicago.
In speaking to Friedman, Ladd said he hasn’t closed “the door” on signing back with the Jets, but admitted it takes “two willing combatants.”
Ladd also admitted he’s thought about the possibility of returning home to British Columbia, where the Vancouver Canucks play. He’s never played for the Canucks, but he’s a local product in that market.
The Canucks will also have some cap space this summer to be active on the free agent market, and Ladd could provide a physical, scoring left winger for a Vancouver team that needs an offensive spark and still seems intent on at least trying to be competitive in the West after a brutal 2015-16 regular season that saw them finish 28th in the overall standings.
As it happens, the Canucks have over $13 million in cap space with only Baertschi and Etem left to be signed. Clearly, there is room for one of the big UFAs — Kyle Okposo, Andrew Ladd, Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson or Mikkel Boedker.
At this stage, the only question seems to be which one.
The Florida Panthers — with former Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon — were also rumored to be interested in Ladd prior to the trade deadline.
Given his production and resume — two Stanley Cups — there could be quite a few teams in line to try to land Ladd this summer.
Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.